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Presentation Sisters Union                          News Update June 2009                             Print Version                          

Kylemore Abbey 1969

Dear Sister Camillus,

It is only now I can answer your letter. I have been ill. The doctor said I was completely run down and ordered me a complete rest. This is the first letter I write. I hope you will not be disappointed with my reply. The only written evidence I have ever seen on Nano Nagle having been at school at Ypres was in an article which appeared in the "Irish Rosary" over forty years ago. That article was by myself. However, I can give you some more satisfactory than that. You know that tradition is the basis of history. Well, when I went to school at Ypres in October 1908 Dame Josephine Fletcher told me that Nano Nagle, the foundress of the Presentation nuns, was educated there. Nano was hardly known in those days. But I still remember that fact distinctly. Nano was born in 1718, and received her early education from a hedge school master, no other Catholics dared to teach. The penal law forbade it.

In 1730 she was sent to school at Ypres, being twelve and remained four years till she was 16. The Constitutions laid the age limit for "Pensioners" down. Dame Ignatia Goulde was Mistress of Pensioners. She was related to the Nagles as were several of the Community. I give you with dates the names of some which make an unbroken tradition about Nano. Dame Teresa Butler Professed 1718, died 1781; Abbess Scholastica 1852-1916; Dame Josephine Fletcher 1861-1914; Maureen Stewart now Dame Bernard 1912. There is also a tradition that Nano entered but remained only a short time as a Jesuit Confessor advised her to return to Ireland and give herself to work for the poor of that nation.

In 1704 the devotion to the Sacred Heart was officially established and the pupils were enrolled. Nano established the devotion in Cork. The Presentation was the school feast at Ypres. Apparently Irish was the language of her primary education. It was what the hedge schools used. English was the language of the school in 18th Century. During World War 1 the Abbey was completely destroyed, as was the whole town. We escaped under shell fire. Founded in 1665, it withstood all the wars till then, the French revolution included. It was the only monastery left in Europe, the Divine Office recited daily all the time. "The Irish Dames of Ypres " by Dom Nolan, published by Browne & Nolan gives some of the History. If there is any thing more you wish to know you can write to me...

I had better add that nothing remains of the archives, with the ruin of our Abbey.

With best wishes,

Yours very sincerely in Corde Jesu

M.Bernard Stewart O.S.B

[From the South Presentation Archives, submitted by Sr. Rosario Alien]

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